In the USA, it is estimated that 40% of cats are obese, and an even greater percentage are overweight. As a consequence, vets are increasingly treating cats for health problems caused by weight gain that could have been avoided if their weight had been kept at a healthy level.
Causes of Feline Obesity
Humans become overweight when they eat too much and exercise too little. The same is true for cats.
In his or her natural state, a wild cat would burn many calories every day while hunting for food, patrolling and defending a large territory, and looking for mates. With their food provided for them, their territories reduced to a garden or house, and (in the case of neutered cats) no desire for mates, domestic cats rarely burn more calories than they consume.
In some cases, a cat may be overweight because of a medical problem such as an underactive thyroid gland (hypothyroidism). If your cat is piling on the pounds for no apparent reason, it is worth paying a visit to the vet, who can detect illnesses such as hypothyroidism with a simple blood test or other investigation. For cats whose weight gain does have a medical cause, the vet will be able to recommend a suitable course of treatment.
Health Problems in Overweight Cats
In cats, as in humans, being overweight or obese can have serious effects on health. Studies suggest that obese cats are more likely to develop diabetes, heart disease and breathing difficulties as they get older, while the extra strain on their joints can lead to arthritis. Obese cats are also at greater risk of a severe condition called feline hepatic lipidosis, in which fat accumulates in the liver; the resulting liver damage can lead to seizures, coma and death.
Photographs of fat felines may raise a laugh in magazines and on the internet, but obesity is no more fun for a cat than it is for a human. For your cat’s health and general well-being, it is important to keep his weight at a level appropriate for his age and breed. If he is already obese, a feline weight loss programme is indicated to bring him back to a healthy size.